Women’s economic empowerment in the upstream petroleum sector - assessment of the right to access equal economic opportunities in Kenya
Arrumm, Christina Achieng
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Focus has only recently shifted to upstream petroleum operations in Kenya following the discovery of commercially viable reserves of oil in Turkana County. Like in many other industries, the local communities in and around resource rich areas have a glimmer of hope that their lives will improve with some of these communities being marginalized and languishing in poverty. They anticipate the realization of socio-economic rights including their right to gainful work and employment. Women are no exception to the rule. They too seek to access the available economic opportunities within the sector. Owing to biological differences and traditionally ascribed roles, women have borne the brunt of gender inequality in the economic sphere with their right to employment and access to gainful work being greatly hampered. There has been a persistent cry for gender equality in the realization of rights with non-discrimination clauses being included in laws and policies. Using the socio-legal methodology, this research demonstrates the gendered impact of the oil and gas sector on local women’s right to access equal economic opportunities and the existing barriers to women’s economic empowerment owing to gender relations. In accordance with the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, an in-depth analysis of the laws and sector specific policies governing upstream oil and gas operations in Kenya was also undertaken to establish the extent to which the State protects and business enterprises respect, women’s economic rights as well as highlight the existing gaps. This study argues that a gendered approach must be adopted in law and policy for economic empowerment of women in oil and gas to be realized. It concludes with recommendations to the Government, oil corporations and their relations on affirmative action measures that can be incorporated in law and policy to advance women’s economic empowerment.